Despite TikTok ban, parent Bytedance to invest $1 billion in India

Chennai: Merely five days into the ban on short video app TikTok in the country, its parent company Bytedance has revealed plans to invest $1 billion in the country over the next three years.

Coming close on the heels of a court-imposed ban on the app, the Chinese IT major has reportedly stated it will increase its workforce in India to 1,000 people by year-end.

“We are obviously disappointed by the current developments, but we are also very optimistic that we will resolve this issue. We remain committed to our Indian users. As a company, we are looking to invest $1 billion over the next three years in India, that is how bullish we will remain to be here,” PTI quoted director-International Public Policy, ByteDance, Helena Lersch as saying.

Lersch added that the company has been strengthening its content moderation policies over the last months. The content moderation team in India, which looks at the posts passed by a machine learning tool, is proficient in 14 local languages and can make culturally relevant decision, she added.

“About 25 per cent of that (workforce of 1,000 employees) will be just content moderation, which means there is full-time moderation staff based in India. We have around 250 full-time staff (right now) but we are very growing that rapidly,” Lersch said.

The application that has over 120 million users in India faced trouble on 3 April when the Madras High Court directed the Centre to ban it, saying it was evident from media reports that pornography and inappropriate content were made available through such mobile applications.

Following the order, the government asked Google and Apple to remove the app from their app stores, and both complied on 16 April. The matter is sub judice, with TikTok’s plea set to be heard by the Supreme Court again on 22 April on 24 April in the Madras High Court. Lersch declined to comment on court proceedings.

Apart from TikTok, the Bytedance provides platforms like Vigo Video and Helo In India for content creation and sharing and is considered to be one of the world’s most valuable start-ups with investors such as SoftBank, General Atlantic, KKR and Sequoia backing it.

The reason for the firm investing heavily in the country is due to the presence of millions of users who have already downloaded the app and are allowed to use it on their phones.

According to CB Insights, TikTok’s popularity is evident from the fact that its parent—six-year-old Bytedance that also owns of news aggregator Toutiao — is currently valued at $75 billion against Uber Inc.’s $72 billion.

Downloads rise
According to reports, Artem Russakovskii, founder of APKMirror, has said since the TikTok ban, downloads have jumped ‘roughly 10-15 times, and a majority of them are from India’. APKMirror is a website for downloading apps that are not available on the Android app store.

Russakovskii said the traffic on TikTok on the website increased by roughly five times on 16 April — the day after India banned the app. On 17 April, the number rose to about 12 times the usual traffic.

According to Google Trends, interest in the search term ‘TikTok download’ has increased in India considerably since the ban.

NT Bureau